Bi-Partisanship We Don’t Need

John Boehner, Speaker of the House, revealed why it’s politically naive for the president to offer up cuts in Social Security in the hope of getting Republicans to close some tax loopholes for the rich. “If the President believes these modest entitlement savings are needed to help shore up these programs, there’s no reason they should be held hostage for more tax hikes,” Boehner said in a statement released Friday. 

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor agreed. He said on CNBC he didn’t understand “why we just don’t see the White House come forward and do the things that we agree on” such as cutting Social Security, without additional tax increases.

Get it? The Republican leadership is already salivating over the president’s proposed Social Security cut. They’ve been wanting to cut Social Security for years.  

But they won’t agree to close tax loopholes for the rich.

They’re already characterizing the president’s plan as a way to “save” Social Security—even though the cuts would undermine it—and they’re embracing it as an act of “bipartisanship.”

“I’m encouraged by any steps that President Obama is taking to save and preserve Social Security,” cooed Texas Republican firebrand Ted Cruz. “I think it should be a bipartisan priority to strengthen Social Security and Medicare to preserve the benefits for existing seniors.” 

Oh, please. Social Security hasn’t contributed to the budget deficit. And it’s solvent for the next two decades. (If we want to insure its solvency beyond that, the best fix is to lift the cap on income subject to Social Security taxes—now $113,700.)

And the day Ted Cruz agrees to raise taxes on the wealthy or even close a tax loophole will be the day Texas freezes over.

The president dined with a dozen Senate Republicans Wednesday night. Among those attending was John Boozman of Arkansas, who has praised Obama for “starting to throw things on the table,” like the Social Security cuts. 

That’s exactly the problem. The president throws things on the table before the Republicans have even sat down for dinner. 

The President’s predilection for negotiating with himself is not new. But his willingness to do it with Social Security, the government’s most popular program —which Democrats have protected from Republican assaults for almost eighty years—doesn’t bode well. 

The president desperately wants a “grand bargain” on the deficit. Republicans know he does. Watch your wallets.  


I would find the argument that the President has given something up more convincing if he hadn't made this concession back in 2010, during the last "grand bargain" negotiation, and if the Republicans were even slightly willing to put their (our?) money where their mouths are and pass a single issue Social Security reform bill in the House.

I have mixed feelings about the proposal itself - on the one hand, I would like to see an actual, objective analysis of chained CPI to back up the suggestion that it's "more accurate" as my instincts (and what I've read) suggest otherwise; but on the other hand there's no progress to be had by making an entirely one-sided proposal. If you accept that negotiations won't even begin without a willingness to compromise, what compromise would you suggest that the President offer? Or should we wait for Godot... that is, for the Republicans to make the first offer that includes a sufficient compromise from their positions to perhaps result in a successful negotiation (or at least a good faith effort)?

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